Digital Transformation by definition is about enabling the evolution of a business through technology. As product developers, we are part of the team leading digital transformation initiatives, and it’s up to us to ensure we are taking things in the right direction.
When clients that have legacy systems that need refactoring or replacing, one of the natural things we do is to look for pain points, which are opportunities for improvement. However, the danger lies in missing what is working. When we do that, we actually can make processes and workflows worse instead of improving them.
In this blog we’ll talk about how digital transformation teams can give clients a far better product by avoiding the “Throwing the baby out with the bathwater” trap!
Process vs. Workflow vs. User Interfaces
If we are going to build or improve a new product, it’s important to recognize that there are elements that are intertwined but have different goals and requirements. This is very simplified, but we’ll break them down into these three buckets:
Business processes are a set of requirements and steps that are needed to accomplish a business goal.
Workflows are defined as the steps required to complete a business process.
UI is where the magic happens. It’s where users and the systems interact to accomplish the work.
Assuming the business is functioning, those processes and workflows are going to exist in some form, even if they are rough. It’s our goal to determine what works and what doesn’t, otherwise we risk introducing pain points, and poor buy-in from the team. Let’s look at how we do that.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! (And why we won’t assume leadership knows)
Digital transformation teams must have good executive leadership and sponsorship which are a vital component to a successful DT process. However, it is a huge mistake to rely solely on leadership for all discovery data.
Why is that? It’s because very often DT teams focus on the pain points exclusively. We look for ways to break silos, reduce costs, create better analytics, etc. That’s all important stuff, but by focusing only on these things, we can sometimes miss what’s working.
Proper team interviews are key
To have a successful digital transformation environment, you have to talk to the people on the front lines – the people actually doing the work, day in and day out. Interviews with those people is crucial in order not only find out what the pain points are (and they will be happy to tell you), but also to find out what is working.
How do we find out what is working? We ask them.
One of the things we like to do when interview teams is to let them know that we are not there to make there lives more difficult. In fact, we often tell teams that it’s more important that they are happy with the outcome than their boss. And this is true. If they aren’t happy, then the project will be a failure.
A key part of the interview process is to not only ask them about what needs to be improved, but to ask them to specifically call out workflows and interfaces that work currently. They might look dated, they might be rough, but there will always be things we can and should look for that they are happy with at some level.
This does two important things:
- It establishes trust and creates better participation from the team
- It allows us to gather important details about their processes and workflows during discovery that might otherwise be missed
All of this is not to say that we can’t look for improvements to workflows and user interfaces – we can and should. It simply means that by asking what they are happy with, and what is vital to them accomplishing their daily tasks, we reduce the risk of introducing unnecessary pain points into what should be a better user experience.
Prototyping is essential
To ensure that you are not going in wrong directions, prototyping user interfaces and workflows should be used throughout the planning process. Prototyping allows you to validate your assumptions and allow users to test new interface ideas before you begin development. This cost-effective approach saves time and yields a far better result.
To do this right we’ll go beyond flowcharts and screenshots. Lightweight, interactive prototyping will ensure you are on target, and reveal missing elements from workflows and interfaces prior to development. And, when you have nailed them, it will be a clear roadmap for the development team.
Here is an example of one our prototypes. Click on the panel to see the activated touch points. And read about our SmartSitter case study here.
Digital Transformation journeys require careful discovery, but we need to go beyond pain points and acceptance criteria to look for what is working in their current system’s workflows and interfaces, regardless of how bad they seem.
And by creating interactive prototypes, we’ll validate prior to development. Doing this will create a far greater buy-in from teams and create a much better end result.